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    Thread: LED Instrument Lights - How To

    1. 10-21-2003 06:21 PM #1
      Here it is, the long awaited (or maybe just vastly overlooked) LED instrument light How-To.
      First thing's first, yank the cluster and get rid of all the green plastic. Replace it with part of an old jug or whatever across the top to act as a diffuser and put the digital clock back together without it. Assuming you've gotten that far, you now have a sickly yellowish colored light thanks to the wonderful world of incandescents. Well, that's what we're here to fix and so fix it we shall. Let's go LED on this bad boy.
      You're going to need some soldering skills for this one, a total of seven components from RadioShack, solder, flux, wire and shrinkwrap. The bill should come to about $30 if you go for white (plus $10 for the soldering wand if yours gives up the ghost halfway through the job like mine did) and as little as $10 if you want to go red, green or amber.

      schematic used without permission
      The first thing you will notice is that this schematic uses 4 LEDs while our Foxes use 3 instrument lights. Not a problem, just drill a 5mm hole in between the two top lights and drop your fourth bulb in there.
      Please excuse the quality of pic, cheap digicam is better than none.
      Here's where I placed my 4th LED, gives it a nice, even glow all the way across the top of the cluster.

      This is your old instrument light with the bulb removed from the holder.

      And the holder with a 5mm LED inseted into it.

      Now, to get into making this work on the Fox. The first thing I did was tap into the light circuit, that's the black jumper wire all the way on the end. The capacitor was soldered to one end of that jumper and the power lead to my LEDs was tacked on to the other side.

      Running the wires was more trial and error than anything, but as long as you follow the schematic, it shouldn't give you any trouble. The two LEDs with holders made up my first pair, then power was sent through the load regulator (LM317 and 30 Ohm resistor) so the lights didn't explode under 12 volts. That would be what we in the technical field call a 'Bad Thing'(TM). Then the same deal with wiring in the light behind the digital clock and the 4th lamp mounted up between the first two. From the second set of lights, I ran a wire to the other end of the capacitor and then to ground. One of the nuts on the back of the tach grounds to the same circuit as the instrument lights. Bonus!
      Then the LM317 Adjustable Voltage Regulator was affixed using a factory fastener (white plastic piece between the LM317 and the cluster circuit to maintain a clean ground line) and it was all ready for installation into the car.

      Parts list: (With RS Catalog #s)
      4 matched 5mm LEDs (3.6V 20ma) - My white 1100MCD ones were $4.99 each (Cat#276-320), blues run $3.99 for 2600 MCD intensity(Cat# ) with reds emitting 3000 MCD for $1.99(Cat# 276-307) and Yellow 1900 MCD intensity going for $2.49 (Cat# 276-351). Note: Those yellows are 40mA load rather than 20mA, so each single LED will replace a pair on the schematic.
      30 Ohm 1/4W resistor - Couldn't find a 30, but RadioShack had 5 10s for $0.99 and three of those together gave me what I needed. (Cat# 271-1301)
      0.1uF capacitor - Another 99 cent part, came in a pack of two for that price. (Cat# 272-135)
      LM317 Adjustable Voltage Regulator - A whopping $1.99 (Cat# 276-1778)
      Shrinkwrap and wire - Had these laying around, probably $3 to buy more than enough for 5 of these jobs.
      Ther you have it, anyone with moderate electronics assembly skill should be able to knock one of these together in a couple hours and run with custom LED instrument lights. The best part is, the variable voltage means my light dimmer still works.
      Good luck out there, and be careful with that soldering wand.
      (for hobbyist use only, not my problem if you fry your car, yourself, burn down your house or explode ceramic components in your face causing disfiguration and/or loss of job)

      Modified by Ol' Grey Fox at 11:57 PM 10-22-2003

      Modified by Ol' Grey Fox at 12:20 AM 10-23-2003

    2. Member HiJinx's Avatar
      Join Date
      Jan 31st, 2002
      Mesa AZ
      13 VT
      10-21-2003 06:43 PM #2
      Nice write up and welcome to the FAQs.
      Hey, you should offer to have people send you thier clusters and you can redo them for a fee.
      just a thought as I loath wiring.

    3. 10-21-2003 07:03 PM #3
      I could do that... Once I figured everything out it really wasn't that hard, just time consuming.
      Anyone who wants an LED lighting system in their Fox, drop me a line and we'll work out something for pricing. I can also do custom guage faces as seen here.

      Though the quality on those isn't quite as good as the ones on eBay because I'm printing on regular sticker paper. Maybe by using a glossy paper I can get better results.

    4. 10-22-2003 02:16 AM #4
      Any finished pics of the LED's in action?

    5. 10-22-2003 03:17 AM #5
      Here's the show, all tidy and installed.
      Dash lights on full bright.

      And dash lights turned all the way down.

      They can of course be set to any level in between. [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG]

    6. 10-22-2003 09:51 AM #6
      I don't really like the white myself. But nice job on the graphics. Props for nice clean work!

    7. 10-22-2003 11:04 AM #7
      A couple blue leds would look cool.

    8. 10-22-2003 11:08 AM #8
      I might do the red... And besides, red is better for night driving (which, afterall, is when you'll be seeing the lights).

    9. 10-22-2003 11:28 AM #9
      For red lights with white guages, you'll want black needles for obvious reasons.
      I was just thinking how cool it would look to have a car in all black with small bits of red trim and then do the red LEDs in the dash.
      I went for white because the color motif of my car is grey with white accents and black trim, on another car I'd certainly have gone for another color. The goal of this job was to make my white faces look white at night instead of that yellowish glow the factory lights give off.
      Good luck to all those doing this project, just ask if you have any unanswered questions about it.

    10. Member --Klutched--'s Avatar
      Join Date
      Sep 20th, 2003
      87 16vt scirocco, 96A4Q
      10-22-2003 09:10 PM #10
      That's wicked, my stock inst. lights give off a very definiate green glow, very old school european look which I like but I think Im gonna attempt to do this mod, to better suit my blue cd deck display [IMG]http://*****************.com/smile/emthup.gif[/IMG] Wish me luck on not creating an electrical fire hazard

      Modified by --Klutched-- at 2:11 AM 10-23-2003

      Modified by --Klutched-- at 2:12 AM 10-23-2003

    11. Member efritsch's Avatar
      Join Date
      Aug 21st, 2002
      Kelowna B.C.
      2004 Golf 2L, 1992 Passat Syncro Wagon, 1987 Fox Wagon (Project)
      10-22-2003 10:06 PM #11
      I'll add that to the FAQ. That's awesome!! Think it could be done to my Passat Cluster?
      Quote Originally Posted by 90quattrocoupe
      I am old enough that I only have to be nice when I want to.

    12. 10-22-2003 10:13 PM #12
      No reason it can't be done to any cluster at all. The wiring and such is entirely seperate from the rest of the vehicle except where the power and ground connect. And those could /in theory/ be taken off a standard bulb holder rather than where I put them on the Fox. The only thing is that you might find a kit for the Passat for not much more than the cost of parts and a lot less labor. But if not, this is certainly an option. You'll just have to work out mounting the bulbs and replacing the colored diffuser yourself.

      EDIT: I added some more LED info and RadioShack catalog numbers for everything to help make the task a little easier.

      Modified by Ol' Grey Fox at 11:59 PM 10-22-2003

    13. 06-09-2004 12:29 AM #13
      hey could you give any details on how you made the custom guage faces?

    14. Member DubPhreek's Avatar
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      Apr 17th, 2003
      89 Cabriolet, 90 Westfalia, 91 Gti
      03-05-2007 05:19 PM #15
      I've successfully converted 3 of my switches to LED.. a 5mm red bright led, and a 680 ohm resistor on the positive end.. they're bright, and it was cheap, a little time consuming cause I hadnt done that before..
      considering that the dash current is controlled at the light switch.. I was planning on modding the odo to have a small dongle/harness that taps off the of the light switch.. reducing the need for all this extra fluff..

      Modified by DubPhreek at 9:42 AM 3-6-2007

    15. Member 2925's Avatar
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      Dec 11th, 2007
      02-21-2008 05:59 PM #16
      Do you think you could give me some pointers on taking off the instrument cluster??
      do i have to take the entire dash off aswell?
      please respond soon hah im kind of in a pickle

    16. 02-21-2008 06:20 PM #17
      jesus christ, look at a date every now and then.
      to remove the cluster you pop out all the dash switches. there are then 4 screws to remove the bezel. you then remove 2 screws to loosen the cluster. reach under the dash and undo the speedo cable and the 2 electrical plugs. then fish the thing out of there. the speedo cable is a total bitch.
      some say to remove the steering wheel -- i've only removed it once yet have pulled gage cluster probably 20 times.

    17. Member 2925's Avatar
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      Dec 11th, 2007
      02-21-2008 06:35 PM #18
      Hah, 2003, sort of old. but whatever someone still replied right?
      Alright, that sounds easy enough, to the point up to the plugs and cable...
      ill be trying it tonight i think

    18. 02-21-2008 06:58 PM #19
      make sure you have plenty of patience. Getting the speedo connected and disconnected can really be a total bitch depending on how good you are at unclamping little things that you can't see. It's released by a little lever molded into it that unlocks off a groove in the speedometer.

    19. Member 2925's Avatar
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      Dec 11th, 2007
      02-21-2008 07:48 PM #20
      Oh geez... is more towards the back of the cluster or somewhere in the mess of wire underneath?

    20. 02-21-2008 09:19 PM #21
      1993 Fox is slightly different (easier). It's been a while since I've had mine apart, so going from vague memory: Maybe only 1 screw each side to remove bezel. Back of instrument cluster also comes off, maybe at same time as bezel. Thus can easily reach behind cluster to disconnect speedo cable; no need to reach up under dash.
      1993 (and 1992?) is a much better design. I want a early Fox dash with a deep glove box, but 1993 cluster mounting.

    21. Member 2925's Avatar
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      Dec 11th, 2007
      02-21-2008 09:56 PM #22
      Yeah i tore through all that pretty easily..
      but damn me i cant find a problem with the wires, actually i found an extra connection thing... haha ill post pics in the other thread
      its really bad btw, so many wires that go to nothing

    22. 10-30-2008 01:23 PM #23
      If your lazy like me go to this web site and buy colored leds
      $6 each

    23. 10-30-2008 01:33 PM #24
      +1 to Ol Grey Fox's pics still being up.

    24. Member ComradePie's Avatar
      Join Date
      Jul 28th, 2008
      Behind the Zion Curtain
      01 B5.5
      10-30-2008 01:41 PM #25
      I can get down to that... I hate phantom pics in good FAQs... They make me want to punch small dogs... Not that I would ever do that...
      COME ON YOU REDS!!!!!

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